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Former Calif. Gov Wilson Backs Giuliani

Former California Gov. Pete Wilson backed Rudy Giuliani on Thursday, an endorsement that could be a mixed blessing for the Republican presidential candidate due to Wilson's hardline stand on illegal immigration.

"America needs America's mayor to lead us as president," Wilson said of the former New York mayor.

Wilson, who served terms as U.S. senator and San Diego mayor, becomes Giuliani's most recognized supporter in the nation's largest state. But the endorsement represents a tricky political calculus for Giuliani as the immigration policies Wilson championed as governor in the 1990s are widely blamed for driving Hispanics from the GOP in California.

Wilson's support could help Giuliani garner support in California's Feb. 5 primary in which conservatives predominate. However, it could turn against him if he's the nominee in the general election when a far greater number of Hispanics would be voting.

Wilson is arguably best remembered for his support for Proposition 187, the 1994 California law that blocked illegal immigrants from access to most government services.

The law was quickly overturned by the courts and never took effect but Wilson became its public face. It was credited with helping him win re-election but made him a pariah in the Hispanic community.

Giuliani, in his days as New York mayor, was one of its outspoken opponents. He called the proposition "mindless."

"It may be good to have the endorsement of any former governor of a large and important state like California, but Pete Wilson comes with a lot of baggage," said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

"He was largely despised by most Latinos," Regalado said.

In recent weeks, Giuliani has been defending New York's so-called sanctuary policy, which stopped city workers from reporting suspected illegal immigrants.

The policy is intended to make illegal immigrants feel that they can report crimes, send their children to school or seek medical treatment without fear of being reported. It did require police to turn in illegal immigrants suspected of committing crimes.

An estimated half-million illegal and undocumented immigrants live in New York, and only a fraction are deported each year.

On the presidential campaign trail, Giuliani has taken a tougher stand on immigration and stressed tight border controls and the use of a tamperproof ID card for guest workers.

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